The strange beauty of juried exibitions

Christina Brous’ “Dead Zone III”

Sculptures by Veronica “Rae” Denman

The Details

UNLV’S Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition
Through April 27
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, 898-3893

Along with the perks of entering juried art exhibits—the prize money, the hope of discovery by a guest curator, the chance to show in an esteemed gallery—there are always downsides. As an artist friend recently explained, you pay the entry fee, put together the work with few (if any) parameters and, if you’re lucky enough to have your work selected, it might be placed next to something that infringes upon it. If your horse is rather high, this could be a deathblow to the ego.

But viewers, too, are taking a dangerous leap into uncertainty with juried exhibits. There’s the potential sensory meltdown from bouncing back and forth between skill levels and varying media and subject matter. It’s an incoherence that’s visually and sometimes physically jarring. And yet, we can’t stay away, because as with any mixed bag, something unexpected could happen—and if you’re lucky, it will blow your mind.

Though restricted to undergrads, UNLV’s Annual Juried Student Art Exhibit at Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery is no different. The exhibit’s juror, LA artist Erin Cosgrove, whittled more than 150 submissions down to a few dozen works. Among them are four winners: a lithograph of a pug (Amber Smiley), an oil pastel rendering of a young child and butterfly (Q’shaundra James), a painting of a couple composed of multiple images (Richard Guillian) and a giant wooden rendition of a monkey from the game Barrel of Monkeys (Deborah Witt).

Cosgrove, an artist in residence at UNLV and one of eight artists featured in David Pagel’s The 10th Circle at Vast Space Projects, says that she eliminated many artworks of great technique, opting instead for works that “go beyond the well-executed art assignment” and are “singular or have ambition or a kind of intelligence or maybe a zany warmth.” All of that definitely defines this show.

So Cosgrove, who's also the juror for the Contemporary Art Center's juried exhibit next month, didn’t pick Christina Brous’ haunting and dramatic photography—portraits of abandoned landscapes and their buildings. But we still get to see them mixed in with Veronica “Rae” Denman’s elaborately constructed paper sculptures (including an eagle made from newspaper and a Ferris wheel made from pornography), along with other artists’ polite realist paintings, photographs, abstract works, figurative drawings and a conceptual piece that has you weighing out cookies.

That’s the strange beauty of the juried exhibit.

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Kristen Peterson

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